Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu
/nah"dooh/
a large state in S India: formerly a presidency; boundaries readjusted on a linguistic basis 1956. 41,200,000; 50,110 sq. mi. (129,785 sq. km). Formerly, Madras.

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State (pop., 2001 prelim.: 62,110,839), southeastern India.

Lying on the Bay of Bengal, its coastline includes the enclaves of Pondicherry and Karaikal (both parts of Pondicherry union territory); it is also bordered by Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh states. Tamil Nadu covers an area of 50,216 sq mi (130,058 sq km), and its capital is Chennai (Madras). Its interior includes the fertile Kaveri River delta. By the 2nd century AD the region was occupied by Tamil kingdoms. The Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar ruled the southern regions from 1336 to 1565. The Portuguese entered the area in 1498, only to be displaced by the Dutch in the 16th–17th centuries. The British established a settlement in 1611, which expanded to become the separate presidency of Madras, which lasted from 1653 to 1946. The state of Tamil Nadu was formed in 1956. It is one of India's most industrialized states, manufacturing vehicles, electrical equipment, and chemicals.

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Introduction

      state of India. It is located in the extreme south of the subcontinent. The state has an area of 50,215 square miles (130,057 square kilometres). It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the east and south and by the states of Kerala to the west, Karnātaka (formerly Mysore) to the northwest, and Andhra Pradesh to the north. The capital is Madras (Chennai).

      Tamil Nādu represents the Tamil-speaking area of what was formerly the Madras Presidency. The Tamils are proud of their Dravidian language and culture, and they have resisted attempts by the union government to make Hindi the national language. While it has an industrial core in Madras, the state is essentially agricultural.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The state is divided naturally between the flat country along the eastern coast and the hilly regions in the north and west. The broadest part of the eastern plains is the fertile Kāveri (Cauvery) delta; farther south are the arid plains of Rāmanāthapuram and Madurai. The high Western Ghāts range runs all along the state's western border. The lower hills of the Eastern Ghāts and its outliers—locally called the Javādis, Kalrāyans, and Shevaroys—run through the centre of the region.

      The important rivers include the Kāveri (Kaveri River), the Ponnaiyār, the Pālār, the Vaigai, and the Tāmbraparni, all of which flow eastward from the inland hills. The Kāveri and its tributaries are Tamil Nādu's most important sources of water and power.

      Apart from the rich alluvial soil of the river deltas, the predominant soils are clays, loams, sands, and red laterites (soils with a high content of iron oxides and aluminum hydroxide). The black cotton-growing soil known as regur is found in parts of Salem and Coimbatore in the west, Rāmanāthapuram and Tirunelveli in the south, and Tiruchchirāppalli in the central region of Tamil Nādu.

      The climate is essentially tropical. The temperature in summer seldom exceeds 109° F (43° C) and in winter seldom falls below 64° F (18° C). The lowest temperatures are recorded during December and January, and the highest in April to June. The average annual rainfall, falling mainly between October and December, depends on the southwest and northeast monsoons and ranges between 25 and 75 inches (635 and 1,905 millimetres) a year. The most precipitation falls in the Nīlgiris and other hill areas, the least in the Rāmanāthapuram and Tirunelveli districts.

 Forests cover about 15 percent of the state. At the highest altitudes of the Western Ghāts—the Nīlgiri, Anaimalai, and Palni Hills—the mountains support subalpine vegetation. Along the eastern side of the Western Ghāts and in the hills of the northern and central districts, the plant life is a mixture of evergreen and deciduous plants, some of which are markedly adapted to arid conditions. Timber products extracted from the forests include sandalwood, pulpwood, and bamboo. Rubber is also an important forest product. The state's aquatic birds are represented in the bird sanctuary at Vedantāngal; other forms of wildlife may be seen in the game sanctuary at Mudumalai.

The people (Tamil)
      The area's population has changed little over the centuries, largely representing the ancient Dravidian ancestry indigenous to southern India. Most of the hill tribes exhibit affinities with certain Southeast Asian peoples. In Tamil (Tamil language) Nādu, as in the rest of the country, the caste system is still strong, even though discrimination has been banned by the constitution of India.

      Tamil, the official state language, is spoken by most of the people. For a considerable number of the population that have long resided in the state, Tamil has almost become a mother tongue. Telugu is spoken by almost 10 percent of the population; Kannaḍa, Urdū, and Malayālam are spoken by much smaller percentages. In the Nīlgiri district in the west, Kannaḍa (and its dialect Baḍaga) and Malayālam are stronger. English is spoken as a subsidiary language.

      The main religions in the state are Hinduism, Christianity, Islām, and Jainism. Followers of the first three religions are found in all districts, but Jainas are confined to North and South Arcot and Madras city. Hindus constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. The largest concentration of Christians is in the Tirunelveli and Kanniyākumari districts. The growth of atheism is a recent development, possibly as a protest against Brahman ritualism.

      Although Tamil Nādu is one of the most urbanized states of India, it is still a rural land. Most of the people live in more than 64,000 nucleated villages. The poorest low-caste villagers live in segregated areas called cēri. The Madras metropolitan conurbation, covering the industrial areas, townships, and villages surrounding Madras city, has the largest population, but there are other conurbations, of which those around Madurai, Coimbatore, and Tiruchchirāppalli are the most important.

The economy
      Agriculture is the mainstay of life for about three-quarters of the rural population. From very early times, Tamil farmers have skillfully conserved scarce rainwater in small and large irrigation reservoirs, or “tanks.” Government canals, tube wells, and ordinary wells also form part of the irrigation system. Because several of the river valley projects depend for water on the erratic northeast monsoon, the government is trying to tap subsoil water sources.

      Agricultural practices have undergone radical improvement since 1950. Multiple cropping, the use of new and better strains of rice, cotton, sugar, and millet, and the use of chemical fertilizers have been widely adopted. By 1967 the state was self-sufficient in the production of food grains. Rice, peanuts (groundnuts), cotton, chilies, bananas, coffee, tea, rubber, and sugarcane are important cash crops.

      Improved port facilities and the effective use of electric power resources have helped industrial development. The state is one of the most industrialized of the Indian states. The important minerals are limestone, bauxite, gypsum, lignite, magnesite, and iron ore. Cotton ginning, spinning, and weaving continue to be the major industries, followed by the production of automobiles, motorcycles, transformers, sugar, agricultural implements, fertilizers, cement, paper, chemicals, and electric motors. The railway-coach factory at Perambur is one of the largest in Asia; the Heavy Vehicles Factory, producing tanks, is at Āvadi, near Madras. There is an oil refinery at Madras and a larger thermal-power project at Neyveli; both are public-sector ventures. The state ranks second only to Kerala in the production of fish.

      Tamil Nādu is rich in handicrafts; notable among them are handloomed silk, metal icons, leather work, kalamkari (hand-painted fabric, using natural dyes), brass, bronze, and copper wares, and carved wood, palm leaf, and cane articles.

      The transport system of the southern Indian states converges on Madras. Many railways run through Tamil Nādu. The artificial harbour of Madras handles seaborne traffic. Apart from the international airport at Meenāmbakkam near Madras, there are three other airports at Tiruchchirāppalli, Madurai, and Coimbatore. There is a network of motorable roads. Passenger bus transport is being nationalized; express buses take passengers to all important towns and places of interest.

Administration and social conditions
      The governor, the Legislative Assembly (Vidhān Sabhā), the Legislative Council (Vidhān Parishad), and the chief minister and his Council of Ministers together constitute the legislative and executive branches of the state government. The ministries are housed in Fort St. George in Madras, though the offices of several heads of departments are located in multistoried buildings outside the fort.

      The state has 20 administrative districts, each administered by a district collector. Lower administrative units are divisions called talukas, firkas, and villages. All these units are responsible to the Revenue Department and the Board of Revenue. After independence, new units—pañcāyats (village councils)—were established for purposes of local self-government and rural development. Above the pañcāyat there are pañcāyat unions and development councils.

      The state's judiciary is headed by the High Court at Madras; there are district judges and magistrates at the lower levels.

      Cholera, malaria, and filariasis (disease caused by infestation of the blood and tissues by parasitic worms) are the chief endemic diseases. Urban sanitation and drainage are substandard. There are a large number of public and private hospitals, dispensaries, and primary health centres in the state.

      In Tamil Nādu the literacy rate is about 45 percent. There are primary and middle schools, high schools, and arts and science colleges, as well as medical colleges, engineering colleges, polytechnic institutes, and industrial training institutes. There are universities located at Madras, Chidambaram, Coimbatore, and Madurai. The Dakshina Bharat Hindī Prachār Sabhā (1918) at Madras and the Gāndhīgrām Rural Institute (1956) at Gāndhīgrām are the two institutes of national importance that are engaged in popularizing the Hindi language and Mahatma Gandhi's concept of rural higher education, respectively. A vigorous effort has been made to make Tamil instead of English the medium of instruction at the university level.

      The lowest castes, called Harijans (untouchable) (Children of God), continue to be the most miserable section of the Hindu population. The Department of Harijan Welfare is in charge of programs to improve their housing, education, and economy. Government positions are reserved for them, and there are also reserved constituencies for them for elections to the state and union legislatures. The State Social Welfare Board and the Department of Women's Welfare are concerned with the problems of the handicapped, widows, and children. The state government provides free midday meals for children at the elementary schools.

Cultural life
The cultural milieu
 Despite attempts to break the religious and political power of the priestly Brahman caste, Hinduism remains at the core of the culture. The more than 9,300 larger temples come under the administrative control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department. In most towns—and particularly in Chidambaram, Kānchipuram, Thanjāvūr (Tanjore), and Madurai—the gopurams, or gateway towers (see photograph—>), of the temples are dominant. The cycle of temple festivals attracts large congregations of devotees. Noteworthy are the car festivals, during which large chariots decorated with icons are taken in procession around the temple. Hindu families owe allegiance to a number of sectarian monastic institutions, or maṭhs, of which the most important is the Śaṅkara Maṭh at Kumbakonam.

      Bhārata-nāṭya, one of India's major classical dance forms, and Karnatic music are both widely practiced. Painting and sculpture, however, are less developed, although there are schools that teach the art of sculpture in stone and bronze. Tamil literature rapidly adapted to the Western literary forms of the novel and the short story. The poet Subrahmanya Bharati (who died in 1922) was one of the first to modify traditional Tamil poetry. Since the 1940s, the motion picture has become the most popular form of mass entertainment. There are both touring and permanent cinema theatres; and sentimental and spectacular films, often featuring light music and dancing, are produced by the film studios situated largely around Madras.

The press
      Hundreds of periodicals are published in Tamil, most being daily newspapers. The Dina Thanthi is the leading paper. Among English newspapers, The Hindu of Madras maintains excellent journalistic standards.

History
      The history of Tamil Nādu begins with the establishment of a trinity of Tamil powers in the region—namely, the Cēra, Coḷa, and Pāṇḍya kingdoms. By about AD 200 the influence of northern Aryan powers had progressed, and the Aryan sage Agastya had established himself as a cultural hero. The use of Roman gold and lamps and the consumption of Italian wine testify to the extensive foreign trade of the period.

      From the mid-6th century until the 9th century, the Cālukyas of Bādāmi, the Pallavas of Kāñcī, and the Pāṇḍyas of Madurai fought a long series of wars in the region. The period, nonetheless, was marked by a revival of Hinduism and the advance of the fine arts. From about AD 850, Tamil Nādu was dominated by the Coḷas, of whom Rājendra I (reigned 1014–44) was the most distinguished ruler. In the mid-14th century the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, which included all of Tamil Nādu, came into prominence. During the 300 years of Vijayanagar rule, Telugu-speaking governors and officials were introduced in the administration.

      In 1640 the English East India Company opened a trading post at the fishing village of Madraspatnam (now Madras) with the permission of the local ruler. The history of Tamil Nādu from the mid-17th century to 1946 is the story of the Madras Presidency in relationship to the rise and fall of British power in India. After 1946 the Madras Presidency was able to make steady progress, as it had a stable government. In 1953 the Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh was formed, and in 1956 the presidency was further divided into the states of Kerala, Mysore (now Karnātaka), and Tamil Nādu.

Ayinipalli Aiyappan Ed.

Additional Reading
C. Vira Raghavan, Tamil Nādu (1973), provides a brief overview. Paul Hockings (ed.), Blue Mountains: The Ethnography and Biogeography of a South Indian Region (1989), is an extensive study of the Nīlgiri Hills District. Stanley J. Heginbotham, Cultures in Conflict: The Four Faces of Indian Bureaucracy (1975), focuses on the region's public administration and agricultural development. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, The Culture and History of the Tamils (1964), is eminently readable and factual.Ayinipalli Aiyappan Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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